Okay, I’ll admit it. I love winter in Canada. I love pulling multiple sweaters over my head, wriggling into long johns and squashing my hair under a toque. I love skating on frozen lakes and skiing on groomed cross-country trails or knee deep in back-country powder. I’m long past school age, but I still catch snowflakes on my tongue. So when a friend suggested I try heli-snowshoeing in Kananaskis Country, I laced up my trusty snow boots and headed out to add a new winter activity to my list.
Kananaskis Country is a favourite Alberta mountain playground. Covering more than 4,000 sq km (1,544 sq mi) on the eastern ranges of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, there’s far more wonderland than can be explored in one lifetime. And in wintertime, this alpine wilderness is fascinating and treasure filled.
Less than an hour’s drive west of Calgary on the TransCanada (Hwy 1), you’ll find Rockies Heli Tours beside the Stoney Nakoda Resort at the junction of Highway 40. From here, a quick 10 to 15 minute helicopter ride transports us high onto a broad ridge in the Sibbald area of what the locals call K-Country. Stepping out of the helicopter, our pilot shuts down the machine and in an instant the only sounds we hear are the crunch of our snowshoes on the snow and a raven welcoming us to his turf.
Easy Walking for Everyone
Unlike skiing or climbing, snowshoeing requires little instruction. Lightweight, modern aluminium-frame snowshoes fit with regular snow boots and hiking poles help you maintain balance. We hadn’t gone far when I spotted evidence a snowshoe hare had recently come this way. Walking through a pristine snowscape etched with other tracks including deer and elk and coyote, I was mesmerised. Although we never saw any of the squirrels, hares, voles, and other forest critters that left those marks, we didn’t mind because we never saw any other humans either.
Bird’s Eye View Taxi
Basking in the midday sun with a clear view across the foothills to the east and the snow-painted Canadian Rockies to the west, we passed around a much appreciated thermos of steaming hot chocolate. Then, before we grew tired or cold, our pilot, who also served as our guide, loaded us back on board and lifted effortlessly into the sky. Gliding through the frigid air high above the forested valleys and nearly eye-level with the soaring peaks, I was mesmerised all over again.
Next time, I think I have to check out their Love in the Rockies package at Horseshoe Falls on the wintry banks of the Bow River. Good to know there is always a next time.